In the minds of many, Wayne Gretzky is the greatest hockey player to ever live. He holds a whopping 60 NHL records. His 2,857 career points are 970 more than the second place player, his long-time teammate Mark Messier. The Great One's 894 goals are 93 more than Gordie Howe and his 382 playoff points are 87 more than Messier. Many of Gretzky's records will likely never be broken. As the game's best player, he was the hero of millions of Canadians who grew up loving the game of hockey and he helped to grow the sport south of the border.
Often times people choose to put their favorite athletes, like Gretzky, on a pedestal. They rejoice in their hero's achievements and ignore their flaws and failures. They make them out to be something bigger than they are, someone deserving of worship, someone to be idolized, someone to be a role model. They ignore the fact that their heroes are just people and at the end of the day, being a superior athlete doesn't free one from making mistakes. It's something we're witnessing right now as two men who have been accused of rape, Patrick Kane and Kobe Bryant, gather praise from people for their athletic achievements while their past transgressions are either ignored entirely or mentioned as merely a footnote.
Gretzky hasn't had any of his own legal problems, but he's far from perfect. He's a human being, he puts on his pants one leg at a time just like everyone else, and he's had some bad moments in his life, just like everyone else. There are many things that fans would like simply like to forget about Wayne Gretzky and instead focus on just his good moments. Here is a look at the top 15.
Click the button below to start this article in quick view
15 He Is a Bad Babysitter
Most people don't like to think of their hero as someone who would abandon a child, but that's what the Great One did on Aug. 9, 1988. Gretzky was in Los Angeles babysitting for his friend and actor, Alan Thicke, when he received the phone call that his trade to the Kings had become official. He gathered his things and left early the next morning, leaving behind an 11-year-old Robin Thicke.
14 He Avoided the Draft
Nowadays a highly touted prospect would never get away with manipulating his way around the NHL Draft to avoid joining a bottom feeding team, but the Great One did so in 1978. Gretzky chose to turn pro at the age of 17 and signed with the WHA's Indianapolis Racers. He played eight games with the Racers and then had his rights sold to the Edmonton Oilers where he played one WHA season before the franchise was absorbed into the NHL.
The NHL argued that Gretzky should be subjected to the 1979 NHL Draft, where he would've been taken first overall by the Colorado Rockies, but Oilers owner Peter Pocklington argued that since he had signed Gretzky to a personal services contract rather than a standard players contract, it would be too costly for him to void the deal. Gretzky was allowed to stay with the Oilers and never had to subject himself to the draft.
13 He Could've Been a Jet
Before joining the Oilers, Gretzky had the opportunity to join a different WHA team that would soon join the NHL as well. With the Racers on the verge of folding, he was given the choice of being sold to the Oilers or the Winnipeg Jets and chose the Oilers. The move wasn't that simple though. The flight carrying Gretzky took off not sure which of the two cities it would be landing in. While in the air, Racers owner Nelson Skalbania challenged Jets owner Michael Gobuty to a game of backgammon. If Gobuty won, the Jets would get Gretzky and if Skalbania won, he would get a share of the Jets ownership. Gobuty declined the challenge and the plane landed in Edmonton with Gretzky being sold to the Oilers. The rest is history and Jets fans would like to forget how close they came to landing the Great One.
12 He Was In Favor of Invading Iraq
Former U.S. President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003 remains a controversial topic to this day. The decision was justified as part of the "War on Terrorism" and with the belief that Saddam Hussein was in possession of "weapons of mass destruction" despite no evidence of that being the case. It's a tactic that many people questioned and would like to forget. It's also one that Gretzky fully supported at the time saying, "The president of the United States is a great leader, I happen to think he's a wonderful man and if he believes what he's doing in Iraq is right, I back him 100 per cent."
11 His Former Kings Owner's Legal Problems
The Great One may not have had any of his own legal troubles, but he's had his fair share of relationships with people who have. Former Racers owner Nelson Skalbania and former Oilers owner Peter Pocklington have both received prison sentences, but the most notable sentence belongs to former Kings owner Bruce McNall. McNall was sentenced to 70 months in prison in 1994 after pleading guilty to two counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy and wire fraud and admitting that he bilked six banks out of more than $236 million over a ten year period. It's hard to forget that the man responsible for bringing Gretzky to Los Angeles may have done so with money that wasn't legally his.
10 He Supported Stephen Harper
Much of Canada rejoiced this past fall when Justin Trudeau was elected prime minister. Many people felt it was a time for change, they didn't like the direction the country was headed under Stephen Harper and some of his policies were viewed as racist. However, before his forgettable tenure as prime minister came to an end, Gretzky attended a Conservative Party rally and expressed an admiration for Harper. “I think you’ve been an unreal prime minister, you’ve been wonderful to all the country,” said Gretzky. “I wish you nothing but the most success … and best of luck to the country, the greatest country in the world.”
9 He (Allegedly) Ran Luc Robitaille Out of L.A.
Luc Robitaille is the highest scoring left winger in NHL history and a Los Angeles Kings legend, but his first stint with the Kings may have come to an end due to the Great One's influence. In the summer of 1994, the Kings traded Robitaille to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a deal for Gretzky's long-time friend Rick Tocchet. An upset Robitaille believed Gretzky's role in personnel decisions was the reason for the move. The pair would become teammates again with the Rangers in 1996 and Robitaille stated, ''I think there's been a lot of water under the bridge.'' Still, it's hard to forget that the Great One may have ran a legend out of Los Angeles.
8 That His Number is Retired by Your Favorite Team
Upon his retirement from the NHL, Gretzky's number was not only retired by the Oilers, Kings, Blues, and Rangers, but it was taken out of circulation league wide in a ceremony held at the 2000 All-Star game. Many fans believe it's absurd for their favorite team to have to retire the number of a player who never played for them and would rather forget that this ever happened.
7 His Time in St. Louis
Gretzky had many memorable moments with the Oilers, Kings and Rangers, but his stint in St. Louis was anything but. Gretzky was traded to the Blues prior to the 1996 trade deadline and he became the team's third captain that season. He scored 21 points in 18 games followed by 16 points in 13 playoff games, but he never developed the chemistry expected with Brett Hull and was criticized by head coach Mike Keenan. After the Blues second round playoff loss, Gretzky signed with the Rangers ending his forgettable tenure in St. Louis.
6 Operation Slap Shot
On February 7, 2006, Gretzky's wife Janet and several NHL players were implicated in an illegal New Jersey based gambling ring financed by then Coyotes assistant coach and Gretzky's friend Rick Tocchet after a four month investigation that became known as "Operation Slap Shot". Gretzky's former agent, Mike Barnett, who was the Coyotes general manager at the time also admitted to placing a bet through Tocchet. There was never any indications that Gretzky himself was involved, but the idea that he didn't at least have some knowledge that illegal activity was taking place is absurd.
5 His Coaching Tenure
Gretzky may have been a great player, but like many other greats, his ability to coach left a lot to be desired. In 2005, he stepped behind the bench to become the head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, a team he was a part owner of at the time. In four seasons under Gretzky, the Coyotes never made the playoffs, never posted a winning record, and never finished above 12th place in the Western Conference. After the team filed for bankruptcy in 2009, Gretzky resigned, ending a coaching stint that many would like to forget.
4 His 2006 Team Canada Selection
When Canada's men's hockey team won their first Olympic gold medal in 50 years at the 2002 Winter Olympics, Gretzky got much of the credit as the man in charge of putting the team together. He was given the job once again for the 2006 Olympics and chose to keep the bulk of the previous team's aging core together rather than transition to a younger team and both Sidney Crosby and Eric Staal were left off the roster.
After Paul DiPietro and team Switzerland handed Canada a shocking 2-0 defeat in the round robin and a quarterfinal loss to Russia resulted in a seventh place finish, Gretzky was criticized nationwide for his poor team selection. By the time the 2010 games rolled around, the job was given to Steve Yzerman and many have tried to forget the 2006 disaster in Turino.
3 His High-Stick on Gilmour
The Toronto Maple Leafs led the Los Angeles Kings three games to two in the 1993 Clarence Campbell Conference Final when game six went to overtime with the two teams tied at four. Early in the extra frame, Gretzky high-sticked Maple Leafs star Doug Gilmour and cut him open for eight stitches. Referee Kerry Fraser opted not to call a penalty and seconds later, when he should've been in the penalty box, Gretzky scored the game winner. The Kings went on to win the series after Gretzky notched a hat-trick in game seven and in the 23 years since Maple Leafs fans haven't been able to forgive or forget the incident that ruined their best shot at winning the Stanley Cup since 1967.
2 His Benching in the 1998 Olympics
The 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan were the first Olympics to feature NHL players. Gretzky was named to the Canadian team, but was passed over for the captaincy in favor of Eric Lindros. When it came to the semi-final game against Dominik Hasek and the Czech Republic, the two teams battled to a 1-1 tie before heading to a shootout.
Canadian head coach Marc Crawford opted not to use Gretzky as one of his five shooters - all of whom failed to score - and the Czech Republic team won sending Canada to the bronze medal game. Canada would go on to lose that game to Finland, but it was Gretzky's benching in the shootout against the Czechs that many would like to forget.
1 He Could've Stopped the Trade
At the time of Gretzky's trade from Edmonton to Los Angeles and in the years since, many people have painted Peter Pocklington as the villain. After all, it was his financial troubles that forced the Great One out of Edmonton. The truth isn't that simple though. At the time, Gretzky was just one year away from unrestricted free agency and he, rightfully, wanted to become the highest paid player in the game. This left the Oilers little choice but to trade him away rather than risk losing him for nothing.
Had Gretzky been willing to sign an extension at a discounted price he could've stayed in Edmonton. Pocklington and then Oilers GM Glen Sather even offered to call off the trade prior to the press conference to announce the move, but Gretzky decided to go through with the trade, ending his time in Edmonton and all but ending the Oilers dynasty.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!